The Most Necessary Component for Memory
More practice has somehow become equated with better practice but our brain has a specific process for moving short term memories (an hour of practicing excerpts) into long term memories (confidently knowing the excerpts at audition time). To be successful in the long-term, we need to know how to practice efficiently in the short term.
It begins with creating a short-term memory.
The limbic system (which is the human brain) is made up of neurons. Neurons are specialized cells which take in, process and transmit electrical and chemical signals. To create a memory, a neuron must take in information, and connect it to another neuron by building a synapse.
These neurons (our brain) take in information through five channels, known as our five senses. They are smell, taste, touch, sight and sound.For example, if we see a cup of water our eyes will relay information into the part of our brain called the Visual Cortex. The neurons in the Visual Cortex will transfer information along synapses to any connection we have built with water. If we are reaching for the cup, it will connect with motor skills involving movement and spatial recognition. If we are thirsty it will connect with taste. If we are going to pour it on our head, it will connect with the feeling of wetness.
These connections are what build our memories. Our brain has a process for deciding which memories are worth moving from short-term to long-term memory and it happens when we...

Embrace rest to build long-term memory. 


Not only is rest often equated with laziness in the arts, it's become a straight-up bad word and yet, rest is what will move the productive practice we've done into our long-term memory.


The process of "consolidation" is what happens when our experiences move from short-term memory to long-term memory. This process is limited or halted when competing stimuli or disruptions interfere. This competing stimuli or disruption can occur from poor sleep habits, too much computer usage, injury or more practicing.


If you missed my podcast with LA Philharmonic violinist, Ingrid Chun, a major take away from the interview was that her practice involved pacing and a rest day! Not only did it lower her risk of injury but it gave her brain time to build long term connections in muscular, visual and auditory memory channels.


With this neurological level memory-patterning, the subconscious mind can enter into a stressful situation, such as an audition, with greater confidence.


Here are a few ways to rest and why you should do it: 

Sleep - Allows for new memories to be formed, maintains old memories by clearing out the protein responsible for memory damage which is linked to Alzheimer's and dementia.

Meditation - Creates a rewiring in the brain to slow down sensory information and shuts off reasoning, planning and self-critique

Nature Walks - Three days in nature dials down the Prefrontal Cortex, the part of our brain we use for self-critique and correction and improves creativity by 50%

Unplugging - Improves memory and leads to more efficient sleep patterns


Not only does resting allow for long-term memory connections to build it also, obviously, gives our muscles time to recover physically. Rest, from any of these four options, has also been proven to boost mood, an important factor considering 2/3 of musicians also struggle with depression.


Tomorrow I'll be releasing a podcast interview with Jennie Morton. Jennie is a professor at the Colburn Conservatory of Music teaching in the Wellness Department, an adjunct professor at Chapman University, sits on the Board of Directors at the Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA) and is author of the book, "The Authentic Performer: Wearing a Mask and the Effect on Health". She holds a BS in Osteopathy and an MS in Psychology. In addition to her collegiate positions, she runs a private practice in Los Angeles as an Osteopath for performing artists.


We will be discussing the way our brain processes information, the need for mental and physical rest, and the need for a change in paradigm amongst music educators regarding this important information so be sure to check back tomorrow.


Our bodies should never limit our art or our joy so learn how to train like an athlete to play like a musician.


Health and happiness,


  • Feb 21, 2018
  • Category: Blog
  • Comments: 0
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